Aaron Widmar
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7 Commonly Overlooked Maintenance Tasks Your Car Needs

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mechanic working under car hood looking at engine
Is your mechanic overlooking important components in your car for routine maintenance?

By now, every car-owner should know how important semiannual engine oil changes and seasonal tire, wiper, battery, and brake checks are. But those aren’t the only maintenance needs your vehicle has — they’re just the most frequent. There are many other services that you should be performing on your vehicle, such as these commonly overlooked ones.

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Timing belt

Fewer and fewer vehicles have timing belts (as they’re being replaced by more durable chains), but those that do need this component for the engine to run. A broken or slipping timing belt can wreck the entire motor. Check your car’s owner’s manual to see if it contains one, and make sure this component is inspected and replaced as needed every 50,000-60,000 miles.


Newer cars with fewer miles on the odometer don’t need a radiator flush right away. But the longer you’ve owned your car and the older it gets, a radiator flush will become increasingly necessary. Draining, flushing out, and refilling your car’s coolant reservoir will eliminate any contaminants that have built up, ensuring it continues to keep your car’s engine cool. Typically, you should have this done every year or two.

Fuel filter

In the past, fuel filter replacements used to be necessary on a regular basis. As mechanical designs have improved over the years, newer cars don’t need fuel filters changed very often. But, this component can still get clogged with gunk over time and need to be replaced. Typically, this will need to be done every 4-5 years. You’ll be able to tell if your car needs a new fuel filter if the engine runs rough, stalls, or has trouble starting.

Tire balance

You’ll know if your vehicle needs a wheel alignment if it veers to one side. And you’ll know if you need to buy new tires when the tread is low or the sidewall shows damage. But how do you know if your car’s tires need balanced? It’s best to be proactive and have the balanced checked every time you have the tires rotated or the wheels aligned.

Most drivers don’t have their vehicle serviced for this tune-up, but neglecting to do so can cause the tires to wear faster and unevenly, as well as negatively affect fuel economy and driving performance.

Headlight brightness

You probably won’t notice if your car’s headlights become less bright until the beams barely shine. That dimness is not necessarily an electrical problem that involves the bulb itself. The glass or plastic cases surrounding the headlamps and taillights can become stained from dirt and mineral deposits from moisture.

Remove the covers and use a strong glass cleaner on the outside and inside of the case until they’re transparent again and aren’t opaque.

Power steering fluid

Your vehicle relies on its power steering system to respond correctly to movements of the steering wheel — and that system uses a fluid in its hydraulic components. The liquid can become grimy, chunky, or even leak out over time, which directly affects the performance of the steering system.

Having the steering fluid flushed every 50,000-70,000 miles or whenever it looks dirty is key to maintaining the system’s proper performance.

Differential lubrication

This isn’t necessary for most vehicles, but for those that have four-wheel-drive and/or rear-wheel drive systems — such as pickup trucks and true SUVs — differential servicing is crucial.

While the differential is part of the transmission on most front-wheel-drive cars, it’s housed separately on the rear axle for the aforementioned drivetrains, meaning it requires separate maintenance from the rest of the transmission. This includes replacing the gear lubricant and assessing the transfer case’s condition.

If you haven’t had any of these systems or components in your car checked by a professional mechanic in a while, take your car to a service center and ask for a complete inspection.